Financial wellness

Money and stress often go together. Whether it’s too little money to go around, or just how and where to spend (both for today and the long term), many people struggle with money and how to make sense of it. According to the American Psychological Association, 64 percent of Americans experience stress about money – the result of financial insecurity, household debt, lack of savings, and retirement accounts. Financial woes can be the source of many physical health conditions, leading to poor sleep, increased stress, and weight gain.

Without some type of plan or support, individual financial stress can manifest in the workplace. Stress puts employees at a higher risk for presenteeism, or the act of working while sick or in poor health. For employers, employee stress over money can drain morale and productivity.

Financial stress plays a more pervasive role on employee health than many realize. Employees with high levels of stress related to financial concerns, 44% suffer from migraines, 33% suffer from hypertension, 27% experience ulcers or digestive issues, and are twice as likely to experience a heart attack. Financial stress can also drive people to overeat, increase the risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and continue or increase a smoking habit.  These lifestyle behaviors further impact an employee’s physical health, having a drain on productivity.

To address presenteeism and stress, more employers are offering financial wellness programing to help employees learn the basics of financial health and enable greater money management.  The goals of such programming are to increase employees’ knowledge of good financial management, enable them to apply new skills by setting personal goals during each session, and thus reduce the stress associated with financial uncertainty and anxiety.

These programs often serve as a bridge between traditional wellness services and comprehensive wealth management, and can incorporate simple money management matters, spending awareness, and other tools to help individuals take greater control over their finances.

Financial wellness is more than retirement preparedness, credit repair or debt management. CAPTRUST defines financial wellness as “a state of well-being where an individual has achieved minimal financial stress, established a strong financial foundation, and created an ongoing plan to help reach future financial goals.”

Many employers are adding financial components as part of their wellness programs. These financial well-being programs include a 12-part learning module that helps employees create healthy, lasting financial behaviors such as building a budget, investment basics, and understanding insurance to create a sustainable platform for financial stability. These programs are offered in conjunction with programs for healthy eating, exercise and mindfulness to address overall employee health and combat presenteeism to drive positive employee engagement.

The key to a successful financial wellness program is first determining the specific needs of your workforce in order to tailor the educational programming. Studies show financial anxiety is cross-generational, but the root concern will vary depending on where an individual employee is in her career path.

For example, Gen Z and Millennial workers look to their employers to help provide financial guidance and education on how to manage their salary, retirement, and insurance coverage. 88% of millennials suffer workplace stress and 1 in 10 say they are very stressed about the future of their career.  Therefore, strong financial planning is an important part of how workplace benefits can provide stability and trust for most millennials, who are looking to their employers to help them plan for their future as part of evaluating career prospects.

Of course, money concerns aren’t unique to those starting out in their career. Older workers also experience stress driven by money and work.  According to a recent report from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, employees ages 55 and above are highly interested in financial wellness programs as they head closer to retirement. For employers, offering tools that assist employees with their financial wellness can be a competitive differentiator, and one that stands to benefit the entire workforce while protecting and sustaining the health of the organization.

As work and life continue to blend, employers can help alleviate the stress many employees feel so they can thrive in and out of the workplace. By creating holistic financial wellness programs that tie together traditional employee benefits and targeted guidance, employers can set their employees up for continued financial success, while at the same time advancing their own organizational goals. It’s a win-win for employees and employers.